Article by Shawn Sims, Automotive Editor, NOTCOT The Lincoln Design Studio opening was the perfect excuse for me to head out to Dearborn, Michigan, for the first time. I was honored to attend the launch of the first design studio dedicated to Lincoln since the 1970s. Now 150 designers, engineers and craftspeople work solely on Lincoln in a collaborative loft-like studio.The day started with a few welcoming remarks from Raj Nair (above), Group Vice-President for Global Product Development; J Mays, Chief Creative Officer and Group Vice-president President for Design; Mark Fields, Lincoln’s executive Executive Vice-President and President for the Americas; and Max Wolff, Director of Lincoln Design.
I had to ask Mr. Nair about those hearts on his lapel. He told me that the studio’s engineers wore “I love design” pins and designers would sport “I love engineering” pins to promote harmony between the two departments. I could see that harmony in action, with designers working directly next to engineers to produce a complete package.Next, I got some hands-on experience with the design and engineering process they used for the 2013 MKZ, the newest Lincoln in the company’s luxury lineup. My personal highlight was definitely the clay modeling process, which is much harder than it looks. When working at full scale, you really feel the true presence of the car’s form and how it feels to move around it. (I’ll share more details elsewhere about what it was like to roll up my sleeves, grab a tool, and plunk my hands deep into modeling clay.)Car design starts with inspiration—and a plenty of research. Designers do a lot of sketching, both on paper and on the computer. This designer is using a Wacom Tablet, the ultimate way to sketch digitally. It’s far easier than trying to draw with your mouse. Engineers and designers work together to make a car, moving back and forth between the digital and physical, between form and function. They collaborate to produce a 3D model, such as the one above for the dashboard. Together, the engineers and designers must account for the mechanical parts, electronics and safety features while still ensuring a beautiful design. One example of going from physical to digital is the process of hand-sculpting a car with clay and then scanning it to produce a computer-drafting file. This full-size model of a Lincoln MKZ was partly done by hand, partly by machine. Taking a peek at the design process for the 2013 MKZ and meeting an amazingly diverse team of designers and engineers was inspiring. Perhaps the most exciting part of it all is that this is just the first of the four new designs to come from the new Lincoln Design Studio over the next few years. I can’t wait to see what’s next!